Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Monday, February 26, 2018

OSCARS 2018: Molly's Game (2017)

I've spent a lot of February talking about movies that made a surprisingly strong showing at the Oscars, films that ended up being better liked by the Academy than expected. But what about the opposite, movies that were pegged as big Oscar contenders early on that only managed to score a few nominees? “Molly's Game” must've seemed like a good early bet. The film is the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin, maybe the most critically acclaimed screenwriter working currently and a previous Oscar winner. The film was based on a flashy true story, one that overlapped with Hollywood. At one point, it seemed like Jessica Chastain – a previous nominee that some think is overdue a win – was absolutely going to win an Oscar for this. Instead, “Molly's Game” earned a single nomination.

Molly Bloom was raised to be a champion. Her strict, psychologist father raised her two older brothers to become an Olympic skiing champion and a chess prodigy. Molly's own promising skiing career is cut short by a traumatic spine injury. In the aftermath, Molly seeks out other forms of employment. She gets a job as a waitress in a sleazy club, which leads to her to becoming the personal assistant to a successful real estate agent. He quickly gets Molly to help him run his underground high stakes poker club, which includes movie stars, billionaires, and other members of the elite. Soon enough, Molly is running her own highly exclusive poker game. This leads Molly down a path of drugs, crime, violence, writing a not-quite-tell-all book, and being prosecuted by the government.

In his transference from screenwriter to director, Aaron Sorkin has lost exactly none of his trademark style. If you had no idea who wrote or directed this movie, within minutes, you'd probably guess Sorkin's name. The film is defined by a hyper-verbal style. Very little time passes when Molly Bloom isn't narrating her life story in a verbose fashion or having long, snappy conversations with other people. The film is full of sarcastic, snippy lines, each character carrying at least a dozen bon mots in their pockets at all times. This fleet-footed quality carries over into every aspect of the film. “Molly's Game” is quickly and snappily edited. The score is full of rock songs, providing a high energy to the story.

It's a good thing that “Molly's Game” is so zippy, even with its far-too-long run time of two hours and twenty minutes. Because I really didn't care that much about the plot. Listen, nobody has ever been able to explain poker to me in any way that made sense. Molly's decisions going towards the trial, the gangsters and crimes she gets caught up in, the various people who have screwed her or gotten screwed: I didn't care about any of that. What kept me interested in “Molly's Game” is Jessica Chastain. She's insanely good. Chastain is the perfect delivery system for Sorkin's hyper-kinetic dialogue. With an indomitable personality that is always sharp and on the ball, Chastain almost single-handedly makes 'Molly's Game” interesting.

When not focusing on the fairly tedious plot mechanics, “Molly's Game” touches on some interesting things. As a movie about men and women, it has some intriguing ideas. Most of the men in Molly's lives are terrible. Her dad is a petty tyrant, an emotionally distant bully who lorded his authority over his daughter. We later discover he serially cheated on Molly's mom. (Sorkin being Sorkin, Molly's dad – played by an acerbic Kevin Costner – gets a big, redeeming moment.) Her boss is an even bigger douchebag, a racist and a sexist. Client X, the high-roller celebrity played by Michael Cera, enjoys screwing Molly out of money way too much. It's generally accepted that Client X was really Tobey Macquire, which will make you hate “Spider-Man” in retrospect. Maybe being surrounded by douchebags is why Molly feels the need to be as dominating as she is.

“Molly's Game” is way too fucking long and a lot of it went over my head. Simply because I don't give a shit about poker. The segue into drug addiction felt deeply unnecessary. Sorkin doesn't slack off on his questionable gender politics either, especially since nearly every woman in the film wears low-cut dresses. Still, “Molly's Game” has a fantastic performance from Jessica Chastain. The supporting cast includes some solid appearances from Idris Elba and Chris O'Dowd. The energy level is kept pretty high, even as the story digresses in ways I didn't quite grasp. Good for Aaron Sorkin having such an immediately recognizable style, I guess. [6/10]

No comments: